If Fowler isn't scoring, where will the goals come from? Finishing is the big flaw in McManaman's game and there is little of the half-chance taker in Collymore

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Get the strategy right, instill commitment, and then hope for the essential ingredient. "First, let me make sure that the four-leaved clover is safe in my wallet," Tony Parkes joked.

Napoleon preferred lucky generals. On that basis Parkes should be up for instant promotion. Three stars at least. Instead he soldiers on as Blackburn's caretaker-manager, only two defeats in 14 matches, happy in his work while the long, frustrating search for a successor to Ray Harford continues.

Now that Sven Goran Eriksson has turned them down - "probably prefers the sunshine to cobbled streets and flat hats," Parkes smiled - who will Blackburn turn to? Bruce Rioch, Bobby Robson, Roy Hodgson, Joe Royle?

Parkes fully understands the situation. "I seem to have a talent for getting teams out of trouble," he said after Blackburn had bucked the odds to draw 0-0 at Anfield in a match quite remarkable for Liverpool's profligate finishing. "And in that respect I'm probably the most successful caretaker-manager in history."

A good question is: would Parkes come across as the same happy-go-lucky figure if he had to deal with the pressure of expansion? Doubtful, and he knows it. "I can take things so far, but I accept that the club need the attraction of a big name to get us back to where we were two years ago," he added.

Cop out or a clear sense of personal limitations? Either way Blackburn have cause to be grateful. Parkes has put them back on an even keel and the force appears to be with him. The amazement the Liverpool manager, Roy Evans, expressed when going over lost opportunities - "three of our players could have scored hat-tricks today" - was understandable but Blackburn's resistance deserved commendation.

The rock on which Blackburn's championship season was founded, Colin Hendry, was quite magnificent, hoofing away attacks and getting his head to the ball so often that a brain scan might be advisable before he next puts in an appearance.

Even so, and allowing for efforts thwarted by the woodwork, Liverpool can never have passed up so many clear-cut chances. Making them, always an important matter in the minds of coaches and managers, was no consolation for Evans. "We did everything but score," he said, shaking his head in frustration. Right up until the last minute when Dominic Matteo sent a header against the crossbar. "There's no rhyme or reason when you get in 15 times and fail to finish. Robbie Fowler won't miss so many times in the rest of his career."

The latter remark raises a thought about Liverpool that could prove crucial in settling the outcome of the Premiership. If Fowler isn't scoring, where will the goals come from? Finishing is the big flaw in Steve McManaman's game and there is little of the half-chance taker in Stan Collymore.

With the match flowing so much his team's way, Evans decided against introducing Patrik Berger. However, the traditional virtue of patience deserted Liverpool as the crowd grew more and more frustrated.

When they were not offering up prayers of thanks for the good fortune that came their way, Blackburn stood firm, drawing inspiration from Hendry and Tim Flowers' goalkeeping. "The further the game went, the more I felt that we might pinch it," Hendry said. What if the referee, Martin Bodenham, had been severe when David James landed on Kevin Gallacher's back after spilling a centre from Garry Flitcroft? Bodenham, fresh from the mid-week incident between Ian Wright and Peter Schmeichel, opted for discretion.

Parkes thought it might have been a penalty but was not about to question the gods. I don't know whether Parkes plays the ponies, but the way things went at Anfield he should think seriously about getting on next month at the Cheltenham Festival. I'll go with anything he fancies.

Liverpool (3-4-1-2): James; Kvarme, Wright, Matteo, McAteer, Redknapp, Barnes, Bjornebye, McManaman, Fowler, Collymore. Substitutes not used: Warner (gk), Ruddock, Berger, Thomas, Kennedy.

Blackburn Rovers (4-5-1): Flowers; Kenna, Berg, Hendry, Le Saux, Gallacher, Sherwood, McKinlay, Flitcroft, Wilcox, Sutton (Pedersen, 58). Substitutes not used: Given (gk), Marker, Donis, Warhurst.

Referee: M Bodenham (East Looe, Cornwall). Booking: Blackburn Flowers.

Man of the match: Hendry. Attendance: 40,747.

Comments